by Bob Geary
If and when the state resumes executions, a 2001 law protects convicted criminals with serious development disabilities (generally, those with an IQ below 70) ... but nothing in our law says a criminal with a severe mental disorder can't be put to death. The Common Sense Foundation, located in Durham, thinks it's time to end that practice too:
December 11 - If the state is going to be in the grisly business of killing its own citizens through capital punishment, then at the very least it should reserve that punishment for the worst of the worst. Yet North Carolina does not have any law protecting the severely mentally ill from execution, despite clear evidence that serious mental illness reduces culpability.
More than 10% of the current occupants of North Carolina's death row suffer from multiple forms of severe mental illness. Their diagnoses range from paranoid schizophrenia to severe depression with psychotic features, and their life stories often include multiple suicide attempts and serious physical abuse. Their mental illness histories read like an abnormal
The Common Sense Foundation did a comprehensive study of the documented public record for all 162 of the individuals on North Carolina's death row and found at least 20 cases that featured diagnoses of at least two major psychotic or mood disorders. Many of these cases also feature suicide attempts, childhood abuse histories, and even hospitalization for mental illness.
The full report, by Lisa Szyc and executive director David Mills is online here (PDF).